Friday, December 07, 2007

Latest election prediction

The Electoral Calculus website had been at it again:
A new prediction has been posted on 6 December 2007 at

Recent polls now show a strong Conservative lead over Labour. ComRes (Independent) has a lead of 13% (up from 8%); Ipsos-MORI has 9% (up from 5%); YouGov (Daily Telegraph) has 11% (up from 3%); and ICM (News of the World) has 11% (up from 8%). Overall the Conservatives are now 9% ahead of Labour (up from 4%), and are now predicted to have an overall majority for the first time in several years.

The current prediction is that the Conservatives will have an overall majority of 8 seats, winning 329 seats (+45 seats since 17 November 2007).

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Labour government hammers Basildon

We got details of the provisional Local Government Finance Settlement this evening, the money that the government gives Basildon Council every year to help fund local services such as our sports centres and rubbish collection. It wasn't very good. The three-year settlement gives Basildon an increase above the CPI measure of inflation of 2% in 2008/9, 1.32% in 2009/10 and 1.55% in 2010/11, which sounds fine until you realise that the spending increases caused by government policy are well above that, most notably Labour's failure to fully fund concessionary fares for the over 65s. Basildon got less than many other Essex councils; for example Castle Point gets a rise next year of 3.1%.

This settlement gives Basildon a shortfall of £751,000 over the three-year period against our very conservative projections and the Labour government has coupled this with an announcement that Councils will be capped from making council tax increases above a certain level...which they won't tell us. So, we may end up having to make service cuts as a result, which could mean putting people out of work in the middle of a recession. The Labour members on the Cabinet resorted to bluster and then downright dishonesty. We were told that this shortfall in revenue funding was is some way made up for by the capital funding that we had received for regeneration projects, but of course they are not in any way related. We were told that it would be worse under the savage cuts of a Cameron Conservative government, but the Shadow Chancellor has already made it very clear that a rapid and imprudent reduction in government spending would not occur. We were told that the money could be made up from Council reserves, which made me wonder if they had been reading the same financial reports as me. The Labour deputy leader in particular seemed to find the situation amusing.

What is going on is that Brown's economic failures are coming home to the British people. Because government finances are in a mess then Britain is badly placed for an economic slowdown and a debt-ridden and high-taxing government is running out of both ideas and cash. That is why Basildon is feeling the pain and why the local Labour party had no option but to talk nonsense in an effort to defend the indefensible.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Northern Rock delusions

A colleague of mine was worried that I have been too hard on Northern Rock. He is not a banker, but there is a dawning realisation outside of the trade just how bad this situation has become, and a fair amount of denial if some of the comments on this blog are to be believed. Not only is Northern Rock in crisis, it is getting worse by the day as more deposits drain out and more loans fall due for repayment without further loans to repay them. Without treasury support then this would be an ex-bank, with its shares valueless. At the moment there isn't a realistic rescue plan, and the Virgin bid has many unanswered questions, like the fact that loan funding other institutions has not been arranged, that Virgin is putting only a few hundred million of its own assets into the deal, that most of the other cash comes from existing shareholders and the hopelessly optimistic business plan assumes that the saved bank can capture 25% of the UK banking deposit business going forward from 2008.

Unless a new source of capital can be found then the only alternatives are administration of nationalisation, either option a progressive disposal of assets and a dismantling of the business. It is a mess caused by a Labour government who would not overrule the Bank of England to provide liquidity to the markets and then overruled the Bank of England to provide support to Northern Rock when it couldn't find funding on the capital markets. Either the market should have been supported or Northern Rock allowed to go bust. As it was policy stumbled from one strategy to another and so predictably failed. It's a bit of a cliché, but I wouldn't trust this lot to run a whelk stall.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Janet Daley thinks Cameron should go easy on Brown

Writing in her column yesterday Janet Daley, a writer who I always have time for, sounded a word of warning about David Cameron's treatment of Gordon Brown. Her view was that the Prime Minister is clearly in the middle of a psychological crisis and that putting him under sort of pressure that Cameron has been exerting at PMQs was needlessly cruel. She was also mindful of the potential political price that could be paid if Cameron had come across as a bully. Of course, she has a point. If Cameron was perceived as picking on a man in a state of collapse then he would face criticism, and rightly so, but the thing she misses, or appears to miss, is the context. We are not talking about some David Brent figure going over the top at a junior member of staff. This is the Leader of the Opposition versus the Prime Minister in the Mother of Parliaments. Both men should be the products of a Darwinian selection process that arrives at people who can represent the whole country's interests in peace and war, to find those few characters that can take the unimaginable pressure of the very top job. If they can't then they shouldn't be there. Put simply, Brown should be able to hack it. If he can't then he should never have put himself forward for the job.

To put it another way: big boys games, big boys rules.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Labour in the mire on party funding

Let us be clear: Labour's current difficulties are not because of a problem with the system of party funding. They are because of a problem in the Labour Party. There are no comparable examples of illegal funding in the other parties and Labour's attempts to smear Lord Achcroft in defence of their own criminality are beneath contempt. What on earth makes these people think that they can simply ignore laws that they find inconvenient? Then we have the line that the numerous instances of criminal acts are all a matter of incompentence rather than design. If that were true then it would hardly be an advertisement for the party of government, but of course it isn't true. These people are amoral, not stupid. In political terms, this is about as bad as it gets. Senior members of the party on both the professional and political side are implicated. There are several police investigations and there will be prosecutions and trials. Wendy Alexander north of the border and Harriet Harman down south are both on borrowed time. Numerous Labour officials may be trading the corridors of power for Wormwood Scrubs. It is difficult to see how Labour comes back from this without a wholesale change, and that means a change at the top. I am sure that thought has already occurred to a few Labour MPs who can otherwise look forward to an abrupt end to their parliamentary careers otherwise. The trouble is that, unlike the Conservatives, Labour has no tradition of this sort of thing. They had better learn quickly.